GBC Resolution from 2012:
Whereas there is a continued need to educate new devotees in ISKCON about the pre-eminent position of Srila Prabhupada as (a) Our Founder-Acarya and (b) The primary siksa-guru for all ISKCON members;
Whereas it will benefit both individual devotees and the ISKCON society at large to improve the standards of discipleship within our movement;
And whereas there is a lack of formal training regarding what it means to be a disciple within ISKCON and how to properly execute the duties of a disciple towards one’s diksa- and siksa-gurus as well as the mission of Srila Prabhupada:
- That the Governing Body Commission recommends that all prospective disciples and aspiring initiates attend the ISKCON Disciple Course prior to their initiation, preferably before choosing an initiating spiritual master. Other members of ISKCON are also encouraged to take the course.
- That ISKCON leaders are requested to facilitate the course in their respective areas by (a) encouraging senior devotees to become authorized to teach the course, and (b) by sponsoring the course in their respective areas as it becomes available in the appropriate languages.
Additional facilitators: Anuttama dasa and Yadunandana Swami
Courses OverviewThe ISKCON Disciples Course is a training program which deepens devotees understanding of guru tattva and guru padasraya within the multiple guru environment of ISKCON. Designed for new devotees preparing to take initiation in ISKCON, the course is also recommended for leaders, preachers councilors and educators in ISKCON. The course was developed under the direction of the Guru Services Committee, with the combined efforts of leading educators in ISKCON. The course is based on the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and current ISKCON Law and gives reference to the writings from the broader Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. The 14 lessons include Powerpoint presentations, interactive workshops and assessment exercises.
Week 1: Guru-tattva & Parampara
A guru represents Krishna and previous acaryas. He is a manifestation of Krishna's mercy. This lesson is meant to provide an understanding of the position, role, and importance of the various types of gurus. It will help students understand principles of paramapara by way of contrast with fallacious understandings, such as ritvikvada.
Week 2: Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON's Founder-Acarya & Gurus in ISKCON
There are two lessons: one about Srila Prabhupada and one on gurus in ISKCON. The first aims at helping students understand Srila Prabhupada's unique position as the preeminent guru in ISKCON for both present and future generations. The second aims at providing an understanding of the role, position, and qualifications of gurus in ISKCON (present and future), with regard for their loyalty to Srila Prabhupada's teachings and ISKCON's authority structure. These lessons will also help students develop appropriate attitudes toward gurus in other Gaudiya Vaisnava organizations.
Week 3: Guru-padasraya & Selecting a Guru
This lesson will mainly nurture the students' devotional relationship with Srila Prabhupada and their own diksa and siksa gurus, through discussions of the relation between Prabhupadasraya and guru-padasraya. A guru's qualifications will be defined, as exemplified in sastra, and the students will be familiarized with how to examine, select, and develop appropriate relationships with diksa and siksa gurus in ISKCON. This lesson will also prepare students for harinamadiksa, by considering the suitable motivation, time, choice, and qualifications. The regular study of Srila Prabhupada's books, as an effective way of developing a deep relationship with him, will be evaluated.
Week 4: Initiation Vows & Guru-puja
Discussion on the purpose and importance of strictly following initiation vows with relevant references to Srila Prabhupada's teachings. We will identify challenges encountered in strictly following vows and suggest solutions in rectification, in case they are broken.
In the second part we will familiarize students with the standards for guru-puja and Vyasa-puja (Pancaratra-Pradipa) and prepare them to maintain regular, appropriate worship. Students will reflect on their experiences, such as taking part in a Vyasa-puja celebration.
Week 5: Guru-seva: Vapuh- & Vani-Seva
Students will learn about the relationship between service to a guru and service to the mission of ISKCON (and resolving possible tensions between the two) and balancing every-day duties and obligations with guru-seva, especially according to one's position in varnasrama. They will be advised how to appreciate the importance of both vapuh and vani-seva and their interrelationship. Their skills and attitudes for behaving appropriately in the guru's presence will be nurtured.
Week 6: Guru-tyaga & Presenting One's Guru
We will identify ways in which disciples establish connections to Srila Prabhupada, the guru-parampara, and ISKCON in addition to their connection via diksa. We aim to help students deal with issues in the disciple's relationship with the guru, with hearing criticism of or rumors about the guru (true or false), and with the guru's encountering spiritual difficulties or falling down. Also, we will explain correct procedures for lodging complaints in relation to a guru; guru-tyaga, or renunciation of a guru; and arguments for either re-initiation or the appropriate continuation of devotional service in ISKCON.
The second part aims to help students appreciate the importance of appropriately presenting their guru within Vaisnava society and to the general public in line with the principles of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, relevant sastric evidence, and current ISKCON Law.
Week 7: Relationships within ISKCON & the Course Round Up
Our focus will be on helping students appreciate the maintenance of cooperative relationships in ISKCON, especially by being mindful of Srila Prabhupada as the foundational guru and unifying leader. We will differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate discrimination on the basis of one's diksa guru in ISKCON and discuss the consequences arising from it. We identify challenges faced in developing and maintaining cooperative relationships among disciples of different gurus and suggest ways of meeting the challenges. At the end we will discuss the broad aims and overall topics of the course, sharing our plans to apply the course’s values and principles in the future.